Cliff Morden's Lab
We use molecular approaches to conducted research addressing issues on the systematics of the native Hawaiian flora. Studies involve phylogenetic questions of species biogeography in the islands both in terms of from where they came from and how they are distributing among the islands. Studies utilize molecular markers to answer these questions, and the type of markers will depend upon the specific question being asked. For some, this is at the sequence level of either nuclear or chloroplastic DNA regions, while for others this is at the population level examining variable markers from RAPD, AFLP or microsatellite analyses. These latter studies are also then used to address questions about the genetic structure of populations, the interrelation of populations within and among islands, or the consequences of hybridization among sympatric species.
Also of importance in studying plants, especially in Hawaii, is the consequences of small population sizes. Hawaii is the "Endangered Species Capital of the United State" with over 300 endangered plant species and many others that are "species of concern" by the US Fish & Wildlife Service. As such, the opportunities to examine rare plant population genetics from many different perspectives are incredible. The species rarity may be a consequence of many different factors (breeding systems, habitat loss, alien pests, etc.), and theoretical implications of each may be examined resulting in management strategies that can have profound impacts on conservation efforts for these species.